Passport Size

Who specifies this?

All passports seems to be the same size and format, which is interesting because they’re issued by different countries.

Turns out there’s an international board that standardizes things like this: the International Civil Aviation Organization. This is a special agency of the United Nations, based in Montreal, Canada.

There are 192 member countries – almost all the members of the United Nations that have an international airport. It’s governed that the ICAO Council, which is the 36 members of “chief importance” to international air travel.

This organizations maintains all standards around international aviation. Things like:

If you’re interested, here’s the passport standard (PDF). It’s Document 9303, entitled “Machine Readable Travel Documents” (MRDT is the technical term for what we call a “passport”). It contains the standards for physical size, and for the picture page with the scannable information (see page 4).

Why I Looked It Up

I started wondering about this while standing in line in a European airport. Everyone had different passports from all sorts of countries, but they were all basically the same size, and I wondered who controlled this.

I drove past the ICAO headquarters in Montreal once. I remembered it because I had watched the first episode of Designated Survivor the week before, and a plot point of the first episode is that the main character is about to be nominated to be the U.S. representative to the ICAO. It was a weird coincidence.

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